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Black History Month: The #MoralMonday Movement and the Legacy of Selma

 

UFCW Local 1208 in attendance of the most recent Moral March, via NC State AFL-CIO https://www.facebook.com/ncstateaflcio

UFCW Local 1208 in attendance at the most recent Moral March; photo via NC State AFL-CIO https://www.facebook.com/ncstateaflcio

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. A diverse group of marchers walked to demand that the state of Alabama uphold the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted the right to vote to African Americans.

In recent years, after regressive policies reminicent of laws that spawned the civil rights movement of the 1960’s were passed in the state of North Carolina, concerned citizens and community members mobilized to fight back—and Moral Mondays were born.

Fed up with state lawmakers that consistently tried to undermine the economic mobility of poor and working people, and who cut the Earned Income Tax credit which cut unemployment benefits, and blocked access to healthcare for thousands of North Carolinians, the mass movement now called Moral Mondays involves a diverse group of people and organizations who gather in weekly demonstrations at the state Capitol. They come to defend the rights of all people—to stop the discriminatory creation of barriers to the ballot, protect funding for education and Medicaid, jumpstart stagnant wages, and continue the fight for racial justice. These non-violent protestors continue the tradition of direct action and civil disobedience that activists like Dr. Martin Luther King stood so strongly for in the 60s, and they continually face arrest and jail time.

One such Moral Monday event last year brought together a coalition of over 160 organizations and thousands of people in what was the largest protest gathering in the South since the Selma march. Since then, the movement has spread to other cities in the state and across the country.

In North Carolina, the activists have seen victories as a result of their collective action. There’s been a pay increase for public school teachers. A judge ruled in the people’s favor by blocking an unconstitutional school voucher program. Some state officials, including Gov. Pat McCrory, are backpedaling from their hardline stance against Medicaid expansion. And Raleigh’s District Attorney dismissed the charges against 941 protesters who were arrested for their acts of civil disobedience inside the General Assembly last year. But there is a long way to go. Republican lawmakers are still trying to pass laws that end up hurting the sick, the poor, and minorities.

Most recently, a Moral March for Love and Justice was held in Raleigh on Valentine’s Day. The march was attended by veteran moral marchers like the Reverend William Barber, an inspiring speaker and driving force behind the movement. UFCW Local 1208 members were also in attendance.

Over the past week, we have seen how collective action can really pay off. On Friday, our UFCW International President Marc Perrone made a public statement following the news from Walmart that it would be raising its wage floor: “This is not an act of corporate benevolence. It would not have been possible without the courage of countless workers who are standing together, taking risks, and demanding wages and schedules that can support their families. Walmart is responding directly to calls from workers and their allies to pay a living wage.”

AFL-CIO Communications Director Eric Hauser also released a statement that said, “In the past 24 hours, Walmart workers got a raise, IBEW and CWA workers settled their strike with FairPoint, and United Steelworkers made safety at oil refinery plants a national issue. One 24 hour period shows how much progress can be made when workers come together to speak with one voice.”

It takes bravery, dedication, and resilience to stand up to those who try to assert unjust power over us, but the likes of Walmart workers who won a wage increase this week, community supporters who helped make it happen, and civil rights activists from the 1960s to today show us time and time again that when we stand together, we are powerful.

This video clip provided by NC Policy Watch provides a glimpse into the many causes people turned out to fight for on the February 14th Moral March in Raleigh, N.C.

Union Workers Call for Boycott of El Super

El-Super-Rally-3-300x200Union members, clergy and more than 100 community groups gathered for an Ash Wednesday rally in support of UFCW members who are fighting for a fair contract at El Super grocery stores in southern California. Six hundred UFCW members have been working without a contract since September, 2013. In response to the company’s steadfast refusal to provide their employees with a fair contract, union El Super workers have called for a consumer boycott of the grocery chain.

El Super is a 49-store grocery chain in the American Southwest, owned by Grupo Comercial Chedraui, Mexico’s third largest retailer. Seven stores in southern California currently are union, represented by UFCW Locals 324, 770, 1428 and 1167. The employees are working together to achieve adequate paid sick leave, seniority rights, guaranteed 40-hour work weeks for full-time employees and a fair wage in a new contract.

Unfortunately, rather than working cooperatively to meet their employees’ needs, El Super focused its efforts on persuading union members to vote out their union. The company held captive audience meetings conducted by El Super CEO Carlos A. Smith, pushing a decertification vote. The workers were not fooled. On December 12, 2014 they voted – by a more than 3-1 majority – in favor of their union.

After the recertification vote, the workers promptly asked the company to return to the bargaining table. El Super ignored, and then rejected that request. El Super’s actions, and its steadfast refusal to address the workers’ priorities, led to the call for a consumer boycott of all El Super markets on December 20, 2014.

The boycott will continue until El Super workers achieve their core goal of winning respect and a fair contract.

To show your support for a fair contract for El Super workers, please visit www.boycottelsuper.org.

UFCW Local 540 Hosts Immigration Workshop

On January 23-25, UFCW Local 540 hosted an immigration workshop and informational session with more than 50 attendees as part of the UFCW’s Union Citizenship Action Network (UCAN). During the workshop, participants discussed President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration known as Deferred Action for Parents (DAP), along with learning about the naturalization process and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The session was run by UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of the Civil Rights and Community Action Department Esther López.

In November, the President put the DAP program in place to remove the threat of deportation for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Many UFCW local unions are hosting similar forums to help members determine whether they qualify, gather necessary documentation, prescreen their applications, and answer important legal questions.

The naturalization and citizenship part of the training provided participants with the platform to learn about the critical skills and tools needed to assist eligible UFCW members and their families to go through the naturalization process to become U.S. citizens. In addition to learning about the naturalization process, participants were also trained to provide assistance to workers or their family members who qualify for immigration benefits under the Obama Administration’s June 2012 memorandum on DACA.

For more information about DAP, visit www.ufcw.org/immigrationaction. If you are interested in sample documents that can help in this process, please contact Amy Gray atagray@ufcw.org. In addition, DAP flyers in English and Spanish are available on the UFCW Political Toolkit at www.ufcwtoolkit.com.

If your local union is interested in hosting a training or taking advantage of upcoming immigration training opportunities, please contact Eduardo Peña at epena@ufcw.org.

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